United Fire and Casualty Co. v. Whirlpool Corp., No. 11-15011 (11th Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
United Fire, as subrogee for Robert and Theresa Corral, brought a strict products liability suit against Whirlpool, alleging that a Whirlpool-manufactured clothes dryer caused a fire in the Corrals' home. United Fire appealed the district court's orders excluding the proffered testimony of two expert witnesses, Mr. Arms and Dr. Clarke, and granting Whirlpool's motion for summary judgment on United Fire's sole claim of relief. The court held that excluding the part of Mr. Arms' testimony regarding the physical origin of the fire was an abuse of discretion where the testimony was based on a widely accepted methodology and grounded in the available physical evidence. While Dr. Clarke's ultimate conclusions could be contested, it was an abuse of discretion to conclude that the basic methodology applied to analyze the metal dryer duct lacked minimum scientific reliability. Applying the "Cassisi inference," the court held that there were genuine issues as to whether a manufacturing defect within the dryer caused the fire. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the exclusion of Mr. Arms' expert testimony; reversed the exclusion of Dr. Clarke's expert testimony; reversed the grant of summary judgment; and remanded for further proceedings.